Jason Allen’s approach to football doesn’t change much.
When he took over the Aynor program last year, the coach continued the three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust style of his predecessor Jody Jenerette. Don’t expect a dramatic shift this fall, either.
“We’re going to do what we do,” Allen said. “I tell them all the time, ‘Let’s just be Aynor.’ So we’re going to run the football and control the clock.”
That worked well for the Blue Jackets in 2018. They went 8-2 and won a playoff game before falling to Hanahan in the second round. This year, the Aynor coach believes his team has potential to be even better, but it will take work.
“We start over,” he said. “We tell them all the time, last year’s touchdowns don’t win this year’s games.’ You’re thankful for that, but ultimately you’ve got to go back to the drawing board and kind of reinstall the program.”
This year’s team won’t be as experienced as the group Allen had a year ago — he lost six starters on offense and another six on defense — but the cupboard is far from bare.
Running back Marquiez Carter (“just as good of a kid as we’ve ever had”), wideout Riley Phipps (“probably the best outside threat we’ve had in a long time”) and running back Fred Pollard (“one of the fastest kids I’ve ever seen at Aynor High School”) give the team more speed — and more playbook options — than they have enjoyed in recent years.
“Speed’s really going to help us out a lot this year,” said senior quarterback Andrew Brown. “We’re a lot faster than we’ve really ever been.”
Before stepping under center this year, Brown played different roles as a junior, including safety and wide receiver. He also backed up former quarterback Spencer Sarvis, but Brown has experience being the main signal caller. He started on the B team as an eighth grader and for the JV squad during his freshman and sophomore years.
Now it’s his turn to lead the offense for the varsity squad.
“I’m comfortable,” he said. “I’ve been running it since I’ve been knee-high. So I know all the plays, all the reads. … I’m pretty confident in everything I have to do.”
Protecting Brown will be a stout and experienced offensive line, anchored by seniors Colby Todd, Tanner Parker and Hunner Grimsley.
“We’ve got a lot of strength,” said Todd, a 6-foot-4, 325-pound right tackle and three-year starter for the Blue Jackets. “Our offensive line, as a unit, we’re averaging over 230 [pounds] at every position. Our running game is going to be a factor this year.”
The Blue Jackets will need that speed and strength to compete in a region that features perennial powerhouse Dillon as well as a talented Cheraw team. Lake City, Marion and Loris will not be cupcakes, either.
“There’s no easy night in our region,” Allen said.
Despite the challenge, his players are ready for the opportunity to prove themselves.
“We should win first,” Todd said of the region. “We work every day to knock off Dillon. We just want to be the best.”